To continue from my last blog about agent Sally Harding and her class at the DFW Writers' Conference, we will begin with #4.
4. Make connections with published writers whose work you admire; whose work "fits" with yours.
A great way to make these connections is at writing groups/workshops, etc. Search online for ones in your area, or even in your local newspaper (some are listed under community events here). Befriending someone in the same genre as yourself not only offers ideas, encouragement and a different perspective on things, but a nice blurb may come out of it too, which is always nice to have when your work is being submitted to a publishing house.
5. Get published -- anywhere, anytime. But there must be a gatekeeper.
It's always helpful to have some publishing credits to list in both your query letter, and the information that gets sent to the publishing house/editor considering your manuscript. I made a point to ask about the relevance of the published works (say, if your submitting a YA fantasy novel and my published works happen to be non-fiction online articles) she said the fact you show you have experience in writing, regardless if it has anything to do with your current manuscript, is good to note. This can be subjective, as I've heard some agents say unless it's something notable to mention that was published, not to worry. So, again, it goes to say: know the agents you're querying to and what they want.
6. Develop a web presence that works in your favor.
Now, of course, anyone reading this is probably already doing this or now, after reading it, plans on doing it. Not only does it help build a platform of loyal readers, but it helps the agent considering your work understand who you are. There are rules, of course, as with anything. Some of them include:
- Don't keep a track record of queries and rejections. Why would an agent want to sign you if she's read on your blog you've already been rejected by 10 other agents? Even on a blog, that stuff should remain private. If you have been rejected that many times or more, that's fine, but don't make the agent considering your work feel like sloppy seconds.
- Don't badmouth ANYONE in this business. (I personally just think the rule of not badmouthing anyONE period, is the best to have). Yes, Agents google you. Don't blog about anything you wouldn't want a prospective agent to read about, including how you may detest so-and-so editor and whats-its-name publishing house, or how such-and-such agent gave you the crappiest rejection letter ever (and then you go further by quoting the rejection). No, no, no. If you're serious about getting an agent and getting published, be professional. Just like at a job interview, you wouldn't start badmouthing the CEO of the company you're interviewing at, would you?
Some other little tidbits I have here in my notes I failed to mention in the last blog: befriend the bookseller at your local bookstore, the librarians, guest blog on other sites, have a website, mention you're starting another book (it's always nice for the agent to know you're not a one book woman/man) and do your research. Know who you're querying, whether it be agent or publishing house, and take the time to respect the fact they've put everything they want you to do on their website. Read it, learn it, live it.